Former Diablo producer discusses Activision’s heavy hand as Diablo Immortal adds character transfers

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It’s slowly becoming more obvious that the merger between Blizzard and Activision has had an indelible effect on the games coming from the studio, but in case anyone needed more fuel for that assumption, a panel at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo with former Diablo III producer Jay Wilson most certainly provides it.

The panel’s focus, which was a retrospective of the Diablo franchise itself, provided Wilson with an opportunity to open up about how Activision was desperately trying to steer design for the franchise in its dogged focus on the company bottom line, while also laying the design of Immortal squarely at Activision’s feet.

“Activision’s effect on Blizzard was like a frog in a boiling pot of water; early on, it felt like nothing. But later on the products that were newer and making money had enormous amounts of pressure on them to produce. [Diablo III was] very solidly a premium box model, but a lot of the talk about Immortal before I left was all Activision Blizzard. They wanted a free-to-play Diablo really badly and I didn’t – granted by then I was off Diablo.”

Speaking of Immortal, the ARPG’s newest update now lets players transfer their characters – the first transfer will be free but future transfers must be purchased. Incidentally, the game’s servers will be merging down in two weeks’ time in order to help players find parties easier.

Activision-Blizzard is considered a controversial gaming company owing to a long string of scandals over the last few years, including the Blitzchung boycott, mass layoffs, labor disputes, and executive pay fiasco. In 2021, the company was sued by California for fostering a work environment rife with sexual harassment and discrimination, the disastrous corporate response to which compounded Blizzard’s ongoing pipeline issues and the widespread perception that its online games are in decline. Multiple state and federal agencies are investigating the company as employees unionize and call for Bobby Kotick’s resignation. As of 2022, the company is being acquired by no less than Microsoft.
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